Maranatha Christian School’s smash hit escape room returns this Tuesday, Oct. 9 with Hooked, a Peter Pan-themed series of escape rooms.
First premiering in 2016 with Alice in Wonderland, the escape room took off in popularity in Williams Lake thanks to social media. This year Hooked is already well on its way to repeating this feat before the escape room even opens its doors.
Mike Warkentin, a grade four to five teacher at Maranatha Christian School, developed a mutual love for puzzles, riddles and logic-based games with his wife, Shandi.
“When escape rooms came into being, that was one of those things where we were like ‘Alright, we got to go try these out!’ They’ve been in Canada just shy of 20 years and they’re starting to get more and more popular, so we played a bunch of those and I was like ‘Man! I would love to do this at the school’,” Mike said.
In his classroom, Mike loves to make his students think outside the box and often gives them riddles and mini escape rooms to solve, whose answers lie in the curriculum he’s taught them. If they solve these little escape rooms boxes they get the prize within, subtly building upon and reinforcing Mike’s lessons.
Due to last year’s fires, Mike was unable to create a follow up to his Wonderland themed Down the Rabbit Hole until this time, simply because of the amount of work and time it takes to build the rooms and design their puzzles. This year Mike hopes to bring all the players through the “dream-like sequence” of Neverland with three themed rooms including the Darling’s Nursery, Pixie Hollow and Captain Hook’s ship.
While the rooms are Peter Pan themed, Mike says that is as far as the influence goes. He has crafted everything within and his team, meaning a deep or lack of knowledge about Peter Pan will not influence your puzzle solving experience.
“It’s a great team building exercise as well, we also have leaderboards that people can be a part of. There’s fastest team, fastest business because we have a whole bunch of businesses that have already signed up, team spirit, costumes and a fan favourite leaderboard,” Mike said. “So at the end of the escape room, they have their picture taken at our little photo booth before going on our Facebook page. Then they will have a certain allotted amount of time to get as many likes as they can and whoever manages that reaches the top of that leaderboard.”
Parts of the rooms and sets have been built and designed by students from the school, something Mike said has made them very excited.
As many are too young to participate, Mike explained that his escape room is designed for teenagers and up, this a great way to keep them engaged with the process of creating the escape rooms.
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With the funds raised from the escape room, Mike and the school intends to put them towards buying supplies for the special needs program and new playground equipment, in addition to other miscellaneous expenditures.
Admission to a session is $15 per person with six people making up a team for each 40-minute session. Mike said, however, that if six people come as a group they can rent the session for $75 or alternatively one person can buy an entire session and try to escape on their own for the same price.
Sessions start at 3:45 p.m. on the weekdays and run till 9:45 p.m., with a big clock visible from anywhere in the rooms informing participants of how much time they have left.
“Veterans to escape rooms are going to find this a little easier than a standard escape room, whereas for people just starting to play escape rooms it will be a good challenge. If you work together and use the hint cards wisely, there’s a good chance you’re going to escape,” Mike said.
So far 400 sessions have been booked of the 600 available according to Shandi. In contrast, at their previous escape room there 300 sessions sold out only after opening night.
The two decided to double that number this year but they’d already surpassed the number of sessions sold last year seven days before opening, with more being booked every hour.
“Whether we sell out or not, we’re hoping that nobody will get turned away this year,” Shandi said. “The word has gotten out even before we put it out there and we appreciate the enthusiasm that past participants have shown and the loyalty to the event.”